Sunday, June 19, 2011

The First Father's Day

Indeed, I had been dreading the first Father's Day since Dad's death and in fact, seemed to be in a strange state of denial in the past few weeks as it steadily approached. A fleeting thought kept flitting around my mind....what should I get him? It's getting closer...better start looking for that funny Father's Day card that will hopefully bring a chuckle to that ornery underbite of his. Hopefully, it will lift his spirits as Father's Day has also become the anniversary of the day he buried his daughter. Then it hits me again and again..I don't need to buy anything for Father's Day this year, do I? That particular realization was repeatedly cemented in my mind during every shift at the bookstore this week while helping the hordes of customers shopping for their own perfect Dad's day gifts.

We had planned a getaway to Keith's parent's lake house for the weekend and as it turned out; the lake was a fitting locale for remembering Dad while clearing some mental cobwebs. The weather was warm but laced with a steady breeze and the blue sky showcased mighty cumulus clouds reflecting in the rippling waters. The nights were stormy and the morning dew sparkled on the sunlit pine needles near the outside deck. The setting was perfect to feel closer to God and therefore to Dad.

The weekend was also a time to help Keith's Dad and we did by powerwashing the dock and boat and basically getting the dock open for business....he does so much for us that we were jazzed to be able to help him out for once. My own Dad's presence would grow during the late lunch we had with Keith's Mom Helen. Helen put together some BLTs for us and the beauty of said BLTs were in their components: fresh-baked wheat bread from an Amish market, tomatoes Keith had bought at the ES Farmer's Market and lettuce grown in Helen and Ken's garden. All fresh ingredients making for some serious taste of summer....and a perfect sensory flash of Dad. I've shared Dad's love of fresh garden tomatoes in former posts; most notably in The Wisdom Of Rex when our sharing of one of his brother's garden tomatoes would be one of the last moments I would ever share with him. Dad loved little more than a good BLT in the summer utilizing those fresh ingredients and with one taste of this one, I was transported to my parent's dining room watching my father savor the joy of that BLT. I thought back to my boneheaded teen years and how I would roll my eyes when he tore into that BLT and tomato juice would drip down his chin and he'd eat with his mouth open. How small and petty that seems now...had I to do it over again, I would have tore into a BLT with him, hungrily finding that simple joy and proper table etiquette be damned. I treasured the tomato juice sliding down his chin in those last days I spent with him because it accompanied an increasingly rare look of utter contentment.

The rest of this present weekend would be filled with lake-inspired fun. A shared cold beverage on the dock while looking out on the lake. Dinner at Camp Bagnell; a historic former poultry house that is now a campground centerpiece...a steak and fish shack where we would dine on fresh catfish, brisket, shrimp, "footballs" (twice-baked potatoes...deep-fried) and in Ken's case, Frogs N' Hogs (frog legs and ribs). An evening ride on their boat intended for sunset admiration became a thrilling, soaked attempt to outrun an approaching storm. Once again, I'm weirdly fascinated by oncoming storms in dicey situations: I watched behind us as the boat raced across the water to return to the dock, utterly enthralled by the dark, rolling clouds and the lightning slicing across the sky. I also felt like a character in a sitcom, desperately trying to keep my cocktail upright as the boat bounced across the waves. We celebrated our hair-breadth escape of the drenching downpour with another cocktail over the just-fallen hailstones as our ice.

The next morning would mean a steaming cup of coffee, a final cruise down the lake to admire some lake homes (including the has-to-be Party Central Polynesian-like home pictured) and a last lunch of sandwiches, tomato-feta salad and fresh watermelon before departing. One last stop on the way home for one last taste of summer weekend: frozen custard at Custard's Last Stand at Warrensburg.

Happy Father's Day, Pop. I miss ya like crazy but I still feel you near me when I need to. Thanks for that.


Anonymous said...

LOOOOVES YOU!! Was thinking about you all day.

Anonymous said...

Hi Greg...another beautiful tribute. Father's Day is one I dread as well. It was mellow here by the lake, too. Touche!


Lisa Mandina said...

Be careful with using hail for ice, it takes on whatever pollution was in the air.

Kate (Cathy Johnson) said...

I remember so well how that feels, Greg...and you're right, when you think of him, he is near. It's been over 30 years for me, but my dad is still with me, in my heart. I still feel close...

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